Saturday, February 12, 2022

My Life In ... Shoes

The twelfth in an occasional series of alternative Curriculum Vitae because no-one on their death bed says "I wish I'd spent more time in the office".

Inspired by a lady in Fell Bar wearing pink Doc Martens here is the story of my life in shoes.

Prelude (1966): One of my father’s favourite songs was Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood, "These Boots Are Made For Walking". I suspect the appeal lay as much in Nancy's charms as in the melody.

Blue suede shoes (1971): when I arrived at college I found myself in need of a new pair of shoes and so went into one of the High Street stores. I chose a pair of blue, suede, zip-up ankle boots. As I walked out of the store I realised what I had done and in my head I heard Elvis "Uh huh huh. You can do anything but lay off of my blue suede shoes". Mark has left the building!

Platform soled boots (1972): all the glam rock bands on Top of the Pops were wearing platform soled boots: Slade, Sweet, Roxy Music, etc. So I had to get with the programme! Oxford High Street did not run to such exotic footwear so I made a special pilgrimage to London, to Camden market where I bought myself some platform boots with 2 inch soles and 4 inch heels. I didn’t quite have the courage to buy silver but went for a more pedestrian brown.

I let my father try them on and he strutted around our living room saying that it made him feel like John Wayne.

To complete the look I had to make myself a pair of flared jeans to go over the boots. I put a triangle in each leg from knee to hem and then an extension all the way round so that the jeans went to the floor. It seems daft in retrospect to buy a trendy pair of boots and then hide them in a denim tent.

One day I promise, I will spray them silver and wear them to a fancy dress party!

Update: Courtesy of my sister-in-law and her talented offspring, here is how I might have looked (and yes that is all my own hair).

Clogs (1973): for some reason clogs became all the rage so I bought myself a pair of black clumpy things. Maybe it’s the way I walk but I would struggle to keep them on my feet without them flying off and injuring some innocent bystander. So whenever I wore these unruly footwear my toes were clenched and my ankle tilted up in an effort control them. I hated them but was too mean to chuck them. I was greatly relieved when they finally wore out and I could dump them in the bin.

Red patent leather shoes (early 1980s): these were an impulse purchase that I spotted in an Oxford Street window . They were my party shoes. I also wore them to several office Christmas parties. In those days they were black tie or, in my case, red tie. I bought a red silk bow tie and matching red cummerbund to go with my shoes. I no longer have the shoes but I still have the red silk bow tie, cummerbund and handkerchief.

It was the shoes that caused me to choose my first company car by its colour: red to match my shoes.

Brasher Boots (1990): for the first 50 years of my life I did no walking. We were not an outdoor, sporty family. But then I ended up living temporarily in Cottingley in the Yorkshire Dales. Because I had acquired a new kitten I relocated up there and decided to try this walking malarkey.

I went into one of the many outdoor shops and bought the full set of gear  including Brasher boots which were not the solid leather, diving boot kind of footwear I was expecting. They were light and the label said "the first time I wore them I gambolled like a spring lamb". I am not sure how much gambolling I did but I foolishly thought they would last me a lifetime. Little did I know how much more walking lay in my future.

ECCO shoes (many): As previously posted, Ecco - 57% of the shoes in my wardrobe, I am a great fan of them. Subsequent to that post, when my Brasher Boots gave up the ghost, I went on to buy several pairs of ECCO walking boots and shoes.

Brooks adrenaline (2016-2022): rather like ECCO these running shoes nicely fit my feet so, having found a make that works for me, each time I wore out one pair I just bought another just the same. I am now on my fifth pair that had their inaugural run at today's parkrun.

Sandals (never): as far as I am concerned sandals are irredeemably naff! It doesn’t matter whether they are the classic brown leather Jesus sandals or high-tech mountaineering sandals. Doesn’t matter how much Gore-Tex, neoprene and Velcro you put in they are still sandals, style free and an offence to fashion. Crocs are are just another form of sandals in my book, nuff said!

What next? Ruby slippers?

Wednesday, February 09, 2022

Hiroshima Twinkie plus Open Mic at Penrith Players Theatre

Penrith, UK. Sunday 06-February-2022.

This was my first experience of an open mike gig and I was not sure what to expect. What I got was a bizarrely eclectic mix of styles. Each artist was allowed two songs then it was "get off", change the microphone and on with the next performer. Although they were introduced I can only remember some of the names.

Tom, the MC, started a show off with a single song.

Second act was Harry Stephenson with a loop pedal. The first time I saw a loop pedal was a bunch of saxophonists in Cisternino where they built up a wall of sound. I subsequently discovered that Ed Sheeran was a great exponent of that art. It was fascinating to be close enough to see the loop pedal in action.

Harry laid down a backing track then percussive beats on his guitar then some vocal backing. He then proceeded to sing his songs using the pedal to switch on and off the various loops. He was overly self-effacing, he should have more confidence in his ability.

Then we got a man in striped trousers who was more of a poet than a singer. He recited lyrically complex material and accompanied himself on a strumming guitar with percussive accompaniment from bells on his shoes.

An old man from Carlisle (sounds like the start of a limerick) with a deep baritone, cowboy twang sang a humorous song about a love affair with a blowup doll. Unfortunately he lost his thread halfway through, busked it a bit and then moved onto his second song. For that he switched from guitar to accordion. I am always incredibly impressed by anyone who can play an accordion  Playing the keyboard with your right hand and working the dozens of buttons with your left while at the same time working the bellows; more than I could handle.

Then we went into deep into "a cappella" territory with a woman who sang a couple of songs in a folk style accompanying herself with a Shruti box. This curious instrument is driven by bellows and provides a steady droning sound in the chosen key.

Next was a guy who sang a Leonard Cohen song, "Hallelujah" but sadly, like the man from Carlisle, lost his train of thought and had to appeal to the audience for a prompt for the next line. He found his way back to the second chorus with a sigh of relief.

We then were entertained by big Phil Haslehurst who sang a couple of his own compositions the first of which involved his landlady accidentally burning a load of dope mistaking it for dried flower arrangements.

Sad to relate I remember little of the next act, a man in a dark grey jumper with a man bun. 

A double act next, two blokes (apparently sometimes a trio, the guitarist is Mike Turnbull) one of whom played guitar and the other sat on a beatbox to provide percussive support. What they sang can’t remember but they did OK.

The penultimate act was another bloke with a guitar.

The final act of the open mic was a couple, him on lead guitar, her on bass guitar. They were clearly seasoned performers appearing at various other venues and events. They played a fairly rocky couple of numbers and then it was time for a break and a refill of the beers.

The main act, Hiroshima Twinkie, were a talented group of musicians that defy categorisation. A four piece with drums, and rhythm, lead and bass guitars. They played in a variety of styles including a couple of reggae based numbers. They are closer to novelty, comedy act than anything else. For those of you who are old enough to remember the Baron Knights that might give you a reference point. Or perhaps Tom Lehrer updated and migrated from piano to rock and roll. Deservedly the headline act, they entertained and amused the audience.

So that was nice.

Friday, February 04, 2022

Brunswick Road 09 - Plastering, Plumbing, Garden Design

Penrith, Cumbria. January-2022.

Another month of two steps forward, one step back.

We were due to have the kitchen and utility rooms plastered the second week of January but the plasterer tested positive for Covid. Instead of pushing all his other jobs back he dropped us. We suspect that he thought it better to disappoint one customer than his entire pipeline of works.

We made an emergency call to the builder we used on Benson Row who came to the rescue with some weekend working! To speed up the process I had to do some prep on the back wall, prising off the old plaster. That wall backs on to our shed and is pretty cold. 

The walls part plastered. As part of the re-plastering they put in insulated plaster board on the back and left hand walls of the utility room. To ensure adhesion of the plaster the walls are first painted with blue grit plaster bonding agent as you can see on the window wall.

Once the blue grit was dry, the builder came back to do the skim coat.

Next the plumber has to remove the grey pipes running across the floor and join up new and old pipes to feed the new sink and dishwasher plus install upright pipes to feed the shower. We are kicking ourselves that we didn't get those done when the boiler was re-sited. Our fitter's high-tech specification schematic for the shower supply:

After that some minor electrical works are planned which means I have to paint the walls before they reinstate all the sockets and put the underfloor heating controller in place. And finally the kitchen fitter can fit the kitchen!

In the front garden Mary has been a real Trojan. The before - a sort of very weedy rockery:

She weeded and dug it over. Luckily one of our neighbours could make use of the spare white stones and took them away that same evening making it easier to work around the small space. Together we moved the extremely heavy sundial (a 50th birthday present from my parents) up from the front path to the corner where I had dug out some most stubborn shrub roots.

Mary decided that the front garden should be a herb bed so it is now planted up with bay, rosemary, hyssop, oregano, thyme plus some trailing plants to cover the ugly gas meter box. Still waiting for other herbs to be available including sage and lavenders.

Like the kitchen "It will be lovely when it is finished".